4M: Shrinking Carbon Footprints

Global warming is a serious threat to mankind and is exacerbated by the release of greenhouse gases, in particular carbon dioxide. In the UK, as in other developed counties, buildings, and the activities in them, and transport generate significant carbon emissions: in the UK buildings account for 47% and transport 23%, and rising significantly. The UK has legally binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and has an intention to cut national CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050. The sequestration of carbon by living plants can 'lock' carbon in soils and ameliorate carbon dioxide emissions. In the UK about 80% of the population live in cities and other urban areas, and these are continually expanding.

One way to represent carbon emissions from different sources, and to compare them, is to calculate the carbon footprint. This can be done for an individual, household, city or country. There are, however, some difficult problems to be overcome in order to do this.

The 4M project will then calculate the carbon footprint of the entire city of Leicester by:

ICT schemes give a limited carbon emissions allocation to individuals. People must emit less carbon dioxide than their limit or buy more credits. The tradeoffs that people might make, eg travelling less or buying renewable energy, will be studied. This will be one of the first studies to explore the likely impact of such schemes on the life-styles and well-being of city dwellers.

As a result of their work, the team will:

The project is supported by both central and local government representatives and contributors from various organisations concerned with the future, more sustainable, development of cities in the UK and overseas. It is funded for four years by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (£2.7m).